The slivers of life

by Buckley Jensen

Having been an intermittent builder for the past 39 years, I am no stranger to slivers. At my age, you would think that I would never be caught handling wood without gloves, but I am occasionally careless. Early one morning, recently, I drove a rough sliver over a quarter of an inch long straight into the fleshy part of my right hand, just below my thumb.

I literally yelped when it happened. I knew it was a deep one instantly because the pain was so intense. Yet I could hardly see the entry point. No end sticking out. Nothing to grab with teeth or tweezers. No needle to dig with. Trying to squeeze it out was too painful early on and so I rationalized that it could wait until I went home. I put on my gloves, gritted my teeth and went on with the task at hand.

When I got home that evening, the pain had subsided to a dull throbbing. I got a magnifying glass, a sharp needle, tweezers and went to work. By then the flesh around the wound was inflamed and the pain associated with the hunt for the sliver was intense. It was late. I was tired. I finally gave up. Big mistake.

By morning, things were much worse. How could anything so small hurt so much? Getting that “thorn” from my “paw” 24 hours later was much more painful than it would have been had I just dug it out the minute it happened, even if it had meant a trip back to town for a needle and tweezers.

Great lesson here. How often do we procrastinate with the slivers of our lives only to have the end result become even more painful and debilitating?

How many times have I said or done something to someone which, if I had apologized immediately, would have probably amounted to nothing more than a small piece of wood in one’s hand quickly removed.

By not acting quickly the slight or the hurt to others has festered and repairing the problem days or years later will have grown many fold.

One memorable example from my life’s experience: In l970, shortly after graduation from college, I became the Boise Cascade Pre-built Home Dealer in southeastern Utah. My job was to be the salesman.

I sold 19 homes that first year in Monticello, Blanding and Moab. My wife, at the time, was pregnant with twins. I had become the English Teacher at Monticello High School when Mr. Lindquist was killed hunting deer. On top of all that, I was managing my Father’s grocery store. I was almost overwhelmed by the demands on my time.

I made the mistake of putting in a couple of basements when my subcontractor was too busy. I also did a lot of the utility work. The homes were built under Boise Cascade’s license, but I was guilty of doing some of the concrete work without a license.

Right in the middle of all this, I got a certified letter from the State Contracting Dept. in Salt Lake City which informed me I had been turned in for “contracting without a license.” I had two options: 1.) Cease and desist immediately, or 2.) Get a general contractor’s license. They gave me ten days to do one or the other or face legal action. Option #1 would have meant sure bankruptcy. Option # 2 seemed impossible. You could put everything I knew about building in a thimble. Remember, I was the son of a grocer and had an English/Journalism major in college. I had never worked on a construction site in my life prior to my Boise Cascade experience.

I studied 16-20 hours a day for a week, memorized the law portion of the test, was pretty good in the math necessary to be a builder already and prayed that, since I needed to average 70 percent on the three parts of the test, I could “luck-out” on the general knowledge portion. It took me the full eight hours to take the test. I passed by the “hair of my chiney-chin-chin.”

Coming that close to bankruptcy made me have less than a “turn-the-other-cheek” attitude toward the guy who turned me in, or who I thought turned me in. That anger festered for 21 years. And then I discovered my perceived “Judas” was not the guilty party I had condemned in my own mind.

That is a long time to poison your own soul. How childish and foolish I had been. From the perspective of 39 years, I owe the snitch, because without him, I probably never would have become a general contractor.

I have had other potential “slivers” like that one in my life. I have learned that by going immediately to the source of the anguish and doing whatever is necessary, most of the pain and suffering will go away. And like a real sliver, the sooner it is removed, the sooner the healing begins.

Life is too short to have slivers festering deep in our souls. They will invariable taint and sometimes ruin the magnificent possibilities of life. I hope you will learn from my mistakes and save yourself the pain and remorse that unattended slivers invariably bring.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
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